The feeling that millions of Black folks experience when facing discrimination in the art world and other creative fields have been validated by a British researcher.
The struggle to find acceptance as a Black cultural creator and consumer is real, according to Ali Meghji, a University of Cambridge Ph.D. candidate who recently presented research at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in the U.K. More than three-quarters of the 32 British professionals of African or Caribbean ethnicity that spoke to Meghji told him that they felt unwelcome at cultural events in White-dominated, middle-class spaces in London because of their skin color — a feeling that African-Americans can relate to in full.
Some people felt uncomfortable being the only person of color in a room or by comments expressed by non-Black folks around them, Meghji, who is researching the “negative representations of blackness in middle-class culture,” said.
“Sometimes I think people look at me more than the art,” one Black woman told the researcher about attending an art event.
London, in particular, is known as an “extremely diverse” city, but that diversity doesn’t reach its traditional middle-class cultural spaces, Phys.org reported. Black cultural producers often feel excluded from these spaces, and Black consumers are often given “token” exhibits that are assembled from a checked-off list of things that cater to African stereotypes. Considering this exclusion and mockery, Black folks are not able to fully assimilate into the cultural scene.
Anti-Black racism incidents do nothing to help matters. A mock slave auction involving seven White male students who whipped a Black boy sparked outrage last month in the UK, but the students were never expelled, but only given a short suspension, for the racist incident.
In the U.S., the same kind of discriminatory practices exist that demean or exclude Black creatives and consumers. Black Panther actor Daniel Kaluuya recently compared racism in America to that in Britain.
“I feel like racism’s more pronounced in America,” says the Oscar-nominated actor to W Magazine. “The disease is still there. It’s the same disease, but it just manifests in a different way. British culture is much more reserved, so it’s more systematic. I think in America, you have the systematic and then you have the overt.”
Meghji’s research and other anti-Black racism incidents show that Black cultural freedom must continuously be fought for by folks. Box office sales and more statistics have shown that Black creatives and consumers matter a lot.